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THE GOLF CHANNEL: STEVENSON PREVIEWS NEXT TUESDAY'S LAUNCH
Published January 10, 1995
Gary Stevenson is the Exec VP & Chief Operating Officer of The Golf Channel, the first channel devoted to one sport. Founded by cable entrepreneur Joseph Gibbs and golfing legend Arnold Palmer, the channel launches January 17. Stevenson spoke with THE SPORTS BUSINESS DAILY on the channel's plans -- both immediate and long-term. The Golf Channel will announce its "charter advertisers" today, which Stevenson said will be "household names," four or five sponsors familiar to golf viewers. THE DAILY: What makes you think the Golf Channel will be a success? STEVENSON: Well, two things. One is we are not creating a need out there in the consumer marketplace, we are fulfilling a need. Our research shows that consumers want more information on golf and they want to watch more on golf instruction. They are interested in what is going on in the world of golf, and currently if you watch the sport of football on television, you pretty much, between ESPN and SportsCenter and their pre-game shows and their post-game shows and all the games that are on, you get about as much as you need on football. But on golf, you get the tournaments and that is about it. So we think that there is a consumer need out there, and our research has verified that. Two, the timing in the television industry. It's an evolutionary thing, and television is evolving so that consumers eventually are going to be able to pick what they want on television, and this is the beginning of that curve. THE DAILY: On that point, The Golf Channel is the first channel devoted to one sport. Do you see yourself as a pioneer in that aspect? STEVENSON: I think other sports will watch closely what we do, but I am not so sure if other sports will be successful at it only because golf is a combination of wanting to watch a sport, but it is also a participatory sport. So, there is kind of a different passion for golf than there is for football. THE DAILY: How many homes will have access to the Golf Channel at the outset? STEVENSON: At launch, we will be available to several million homes, and we will have a preview the first six days. It will be free to the subscribers. THE DAILY: Are there any plans for access on direct broadcast satellite? STEVENSON: Yes, we will launch on DirectTV, and we will be available on the big satellite dish market as well. THE DAILY: Are you planning for interactive shopping or informercial programming on the network? STEVENSON: Intentionally we will not do a lot of infomercials. We will do some. Like, perhaps during Ryder Cup week, we will do Ryder Cup merchandise. We do have plans in 1995 for a home shopping segment, but the actual content of the show is still being developed. THE DAILY: What domestic tournaments will you carry? Will they be pro events, amateur events? STEVENSON: It will be a combination. We have six PGA tour events. In 1995, we will air 15 LPGA events, eight Nike Tour events, we will have a couple of club pro events, we may have a junior amateur event and we will have a couple of amateur events -- USGA amateur events. THE DAILY: Is it an aim down the road to compete with the networks for weekend coverage of the PGA Tour and the majors? STEVENSON: Well, that is a function of economics. We don't really see ourselves competing with the networks at this point. They are getting squeezed some on the programming side, so there may be some instances where we have the ability to program some events that the PGA Tour wants to run that they can't program, or it just doesn't make sense for them to program. But we see ourselves and the networks as complimenting each other. THE DAILY: Are there any plans to develop your own specialty events? STEVENSON: Yes, we have talked about a number of ideas. To give you specifics would be a little premature, but there are some pretty creative events. With Arnold Palmer as your chairman we are not short on ideas. THE DAILY: What are your feelings about the World Tour. Would you consider carrying some early rounds of Fox World Tour events? STEVENSON: Our feeling on the World Tour, or any Tour is that we believe the structure of the game is pretty solid, the way it is currently structured, and to have strong tours around the world that are creating good competition is good for the game of golf. So anything that is done from a World Tour standpoint that we would support would have to be done in conjunction with the existing tours, only because it is crazy to tear down a system that is probably the only sport that works well right now. Golf is structured properly. And because of the way it is structured, golf has really blossomed worldwide. On any given week, you have eight great professional tournaments going on around the world. That is great competing opportunities, it is great for fans, it is great for television. The concept of getting the best players to play together is great, but you are not too far from that with the PGA Tour anyway. Nick Faldo joined this year, Mark McNulty joined, so on any given week on the PGA Tour you probably have 25 out of the top 30 in the world right now.